Son de Allá y Son de Acá brings together sixty contemporary Chicano/a and Latino/a artists from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas across four Albuquerque art galleries.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—The American Southwest is distinctive because it feels both expansive and small at the same time. It takes days to travel across the region—by car at least—and you could drive hundreds of miles without seeing any signs of humanity in some parts of the deserts. But the reality is that in between the wide spaces are thriving communities that are so networked that, at least in some circles, everyone knows everyone, or you’re never more than a couple of degrees from a mutual connection. It’s a stark contrast to the visual isolation one can feel on a Southwestern road trip.
A feeling of deep community will be emphasized in the exhibition Son de Allá y Son de Acá, an artist exchange organized by Ricardo Islas (San Diego), Rigoberto Luna (San Antonio, Texas), and Vicente Telles (Albuquerque), who are all hoping to cultivate a deeper sense of cultural trade within the region in the contemporary art space. They are from there, and they are from here, the English title of the show, is a multidisciplinary exhibition featuring sixty artists from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas across four galleries in Albuquerque: El Chante: Casa de Cultura, Exhibit/208, South Broadway Cultural Center, and Tortuga Gallery.
The ambitious project was conceived following the April 2022 group show Crossing Borders: Tres de Oeste at Presa House Gallery in San Antonio, an exhibition that Islas, Luna, and Telles refer to as “phase one.” The organizers cite a lack of visibility for contemporary Latino artists as the primary reason for putting together the artist exchange. In the Southwest, where so much attention is paid to “traditional” Spanish and Indigenous art, it is important to carve out space for contemporary Chicano/a and Latino/a artists to demonstrate that the artistic communities here are very much thriving in the present.
For Son de Allá y Son de Acá, the organizers wanted to highlight Albuquerque because of its ideal location and unique arts scene.
“[Albuquerque] is not influenced by the tourist art market like Santa Fe and Taos,” says Telles, who went on to describe Albuquerque as a “nexus point” between the cities where the participating artists live and work, which makes it a logical convergence point for the ambitious exhibition.
The city also has rich and varied multiculturalism, where no two neighborhoods are alike, and the four participating art galleries will reflect its multitudes. El Chante, Exhibit/408, South Broadway Cultural Center, and Tortuga Gallery are not detached from their surrounding communities; instead, they operate within and respond to hyperlocal community needs, and the community members’ voices are always a part of the conversation. Reflecting on this, Telles says he’s most excited to see how the different spaces mount the artwork because each has a distinct method and will attract unique audiences.
For Islas, Luna, and Telles, including as many artists from as many different backgrounds is as important as drawing a diverse audience to see the show.
“There’s strength in numbers, and we can expand our knowledge and experience by showing together,” says Islas when asked about why it’s important to create exchange opportunities for artists from around the Southwest. While our borders may not be physically redrawn any time soon, we can dissolve the borders in our minds by sharing perspectives and stories. It’s impossible to organize a cultural project in the Southwest without acknowledging the geographical history of the trade routes that run through the region. As Telles sees it, this artist exchange echoes the cultural exchange that occurred hundreds of years ago on the Camino Real, a commercial trade route that extended from present-day Mexico to the southwestern United States and even as far east as Louisiana.
The expansive group exhibition includes a variety of artistic media, such as fiber and textile, photography, painting, performance, printmaking, and sculpture. Taking a closer look at these artistic disciplines, it becomes clear that, for most artists, place informs the medium.
For example, fiber work by Texas-based artists reflects the labor of cotton-picking and illustrates the differences between this work in Texas and the southeastern U.S. “And there’s no cotton in New Mexico, but we do work with wool,” says Telles. “Where we dwell impacts how we create, and our region dictates our material.”
Ready-made sculptures created from found objects along the U.S.-Mexico border generate a “visual lexicon of border towns,” says Luna. The border covers a vast amount of distance, and every migration story is different; the corresponding artworks—constructed from materials that include dirt, tennis shoes, barbed wire, and shopping carts—provide insight into these experiences.
Son de Allá y Son de Acá celebrates the differences and similarities found across the communities of the Southwest and tells us that it’s possible for both to coexist. The exhibition also goes against assumptions about what Southwestern art looks like by uplifting the work of contemporary Latino artists. It’s the organizers’ hope that this artist exchange will inspire further cross-communication and cultivate an active arts community that reaches audiences in the region and beyond.
Son de Allá y Son de Acá is scheduled to take place August 5–August 27 at El Chante: Casa de Cultura, 804 Park Avenue SW, and at Tortuga Gallery, 901 Edith Boulevard SE; August 5–September 29 at the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway Boulevard SE; and August 12–September 3 at Exhibit/208, 208 Broadway Boulevard SE. A live performance by José Villalobos will take place Friday, August 5, at 7 pm at the South Broadway Cultural Center.